Matthew Burnside ain’t fraid of no ghosts. He is an editor for Mixed Fruit, an online literary magazine.
He prefers stories with climactic endings. Of all the inevitable things—death, taxes, whatever, the one thing he will never not do is say You, too! after the lady at the ticket box rips his ticket and tells him to enjoy his film. As a boy he would shovel quarters into novelty machines. At home, he would throw away the contents and admire his vast collection of plastic multicolored bubbles. All ten digits shooting off his hands like blaring rockets and anti-gravity zombies floating through space until they pin him against a Russian satellite and feast in death-silence on his icy organs: to this day, the most terrifying dreams he’s ever had. He feels threatened by the girlfriend who enjoys artificial watermelon flavoring but hates watermelon. Years later, in the throes of withdrawal, he learns in some obscure textbook love is nothing more than a chemical cocktail and misfit burst of neurons firing, the experience of falling in love no different from a needle full of junk, according to Dr. So-and-So—both addicting as hell and entailing nightmarish comedowns, so that the more a person falls in love the less powerful the high becomes over time, causing one to chase their fix from one dealer to the next trying to recapture that precious first high and doomed to disappointment, since nothing ever beats your first high. Scientists who knew their shit had verified this in experiments. He had verified it in his own unofficial fieldwork. All of us are junkies, he concludes, but just like in the real world, only a few of us get to be dealers. His hurried commute through traffic every day is a futile endeavor. If only he stayed in one lane, he would arrive at his destination at precisely the same time. He knows this, but the illusion of progress gives him comfort. Movement trumps stillness. At the age of seven, he slept beneath his bed for fear of what waited for him underneath his sheets. “You got it all wrong,” his best friend at the time tried to break it down. “It’s the other way around.” That was the end of their friendship. Who is anybody to tell us our conception of Heaven, Hell, or The Bogeyman? He’s always feared his mother’s claw foot bath tub, its rusty zigzag smile. Peanut butter makes him claustrophobic—the texture not the taste. Once in Prague, he was born again, found divinity in the architecture, a righteous curve in every edge. Once in Prague, a gypsy broke a bottle over his skull and borrowed his wallet. Back home in the States, he is quick to kick the windshield out after a car crash, having watched one too many movies, convinced all cars must blow up no matter how serious or minor the collision. Clambering up a hill and scrambling to a safe distance, he plugs his ears and waits for the explosion.